Joe Bonamassa

Benedum Center, Pittsburgh, PA May 6, 2014

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

It was a night of firsts at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center on Tuesday night for both Joe Bonamassa and his devoted legion of fans.  Well known for his signature Les Pauls, , it was the first time many have ever seen him play a Strat, learned that there is an instrument called the nykelharpa and found out that supergroup  Black Country Communion was officially disbanded. Still riding behind the massive success of “An Evening at the Vienna House,” the opening 45 minute acoustic set features two covers that many people don’t know; Bad Company’s “Seagull” and Charlie Mingus’s “Jelly Roll.” No matter, whether a long-time fan or a first timer, song titles are a mere formality in the lightning fast shredding showcase that features instruments few have ever heard of ) .Ex BCC keyboardist Derek Sherinian still tours with Bonamassa and shines in first set by playing everything from delicate carousel melodies (“Jockey Full of Bourbon”) to the full on hammer down key bashing during the operatic scope of “Happier Times.”

The lights burned behind drummer Tal Bergman as the electric set opened to the haunting intro of “Dust Bowl.” It was time to buckle up for Bonamonster blues. For the next ten songs, the he alternated between the Gold Top and the Sunburst. Ironically, the highlight, “LoveAin’t a Love Song” was performed with a black Strat.  Even without the heavy sustain of the Gibson, he managed to create a more refined wall of sound with the crisper axe.   He set aside four minutes for his newest, “Oh Beautiful.”


At one point he gave some knucklehead a well-deserved middle finger in response to a drunken request for “Freebird.” It was met with applause and laughter from the sold out crowd

Later on, he quipped, “I was told if I waved this, I would get a lot of cheers,” before pulling out the Steelers’ iconic Terrible Towel. He closed with perennial favorite, “The Ballad of John Henry.”


The  three-hour show was thematically diverse. The electric set by virtue of its sheer energy feels like a hybrid of classic 1970s rock and Eighties metal. The encore, “Django” is performed so high up on the neck it seems that he will run out of frets and feels absolutely symphonic.

Boinamassa was once asked about being a rock star. He replied, “I’m not a rock star. I don’t dress the part or want to be anything like that. I just want to be a guitar player and always have been.”  Guess he’ll just have to settle for “Guitar God.” On that, about 3,000 people seemed to agree.